How Joseph Ratzinger saw past the Church’s established structures


Catholic Herald, 13 December 2018

For the future Pope, the Holy Spirit was 'speaking up' through the new movements which bypassed old bureaucracies

This year a likely Catholic Christmas gift will be the new biography of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI: His Life and Thought. Elio Guerriero’s book first appeared in Italian in 2016, and now is available in English from Ignatius Press.

In a lengthy book, one thing that caught my attention was the long relationship of Ratzinger/Benedict to new movements. This most conservative of figures was inclined to see the future of the Church not in the established structures of German Catholicism, but in the new movements that often challenged those structures.

Indeed, the establishment of German Catholicism battled with Ratzinger/Benedict in Rome, not knowing that its moment would come under his successor. There is nothing that the German establishment wants – liberalisation regarding divorce and remarriage, local authority over liturgical translations, Holy Communion for Protestants – that does not seem to be tacitly encouraged under Pope Francis. The abdication of the German pope surprisingly gave way to the German pontificate.

The biographer faces an impossible challenge. Joseph Ratzinger’s long service to the Church – brilliant professor, gifted writer, theological expert, editorial founder, diocesan bishop, chief lieutenant of St John Paul II, pope himself – is simply too much to fit neatly into some 600 pages.

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